On the wall above the 48 beers on tap at the Rock & Brews bar, a mural of music legends stands ready to welcome guests to the recently opened restaurant in Kissimmee.
Tom Petty—circa his “Damn the Torpedoes” years—waits front and center, a small nod to the musician’s Florida roots and a good indication of how each of the restaurants in the fast-growing national franchise tailors its experiences and menus to the locales they serve.
“It’s a mix and a meld of a lot of components that people can visit more often than say, a regular restaurant,” says General Manager Kris Maronpot. “We have great craft beer, great food, an outdoor area that has a bar both covered and uncovered, with a variety of different seating options.”
As it turns out, those seating options aren’t limited to just people—if you want to rock out with your favorite four-legged buddy, a dog friendly patio offers leash hooks, water and even special menu items.
The seating options for those who don’t need a leash are many—high tops, booths, bar stools, whiskey barrels, tables, even marine-grade-upholstered outdoor sofas encircling firepits on the patio. Rock ‘n’ roll themed artwork helps create distinct sections for each in a melting pot of styles.
On Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to midnight, a small stage in the main patio is home for Central Florida musicians. They play mostly classic rock covers to accompany but not overpower dinner, or a friendly game of corn hole, foosball, or tabletop shuffleboard.
“The Oasis,” as Maronpot calls it, was designed to feel like a friend’s back yard - assuming your friend has a bar with nearly 60 different beers to choose from.
In the main dining area, guests can expect to be served Americana and comfort food made fresh to order. All of this comes wrapped in the sights and sounds of 1,300 hand-picked rock music videos playing on a generous but not overpowering collection of TV screens and speakers.
The open, hangar-like interior of Rock & Brews is appropriately decorated with rock ‘n’ roll themed art and decor. Florida artists created many of the items, including an American flag made of recycled fire hoses stitched together by two firemen from Tampa and a giant mural by two University of Central Florida grads of rock stars silhouetted against a Florida beachscape.
Guests will also find dozens of local craft brews on tap and locally sourced ingredients, their origins marked in the menu.
Rock ‘n’ roll is the heart of the Rock & Brews concept, but for Maronpot, “the food is the show.”
“We have prep cooks here at 7 a.m. every day,” he says. “And we make all of our own dressings, we make all of our own sauces. Many things are hand cut...There’s a lot of layering and staging that goes into the ingredients.”
Rock & Brews Kissimmee opened in late October as the first restaurant in the Sunset Walk district of the Margaritaville Resort to welcome guests. Out front along U.S. Highway 192, a 40-foot-tall guitar acts as a beacon to draw in rock-loving tourists, snow birds and locals alike.
Fans of KISS might already recognize Rock & Brews as the brand partially owned by frontmen Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley—along with restaurateur Michael Zislis and rock merchandisers Dave and Dell Furano.
“They came up with an amazing menu,” said Maronpot. “We have to give credit to them for Rock & Brews, the name, the concept, the menu is just amazing. They put a lot of time and a lot of work into that out in California. But we’re also restaurateurs and culinarians ourselves, so we’re on the pulse of what’s going on in Florida.”
Maronpot estimates that about 80 percent of the menu comes from the franchise, and about 20 percent is created in house.
“We’re a small company, so there’s a lot of collaboration,” he says. “A lot of times the best dishes and ingredients come from the cooks. The ones that are handling those items every day.”
Baby back ribs are the number one seller at Rock & Brews. Maronpot himself prefers the Santa Maria tri-tip sirloin.
“It’s one of the coolest things we do,” he says. “We get it in fresh, our cooks trim and prepare it, dry rub it, wrap it and marinate it overnight, take the roast, then put it on the grill which is a wood assisted pecan and oak grill.
“So, while we’re roasting it, we’re adding a basting vinaigrette that gives it a little flavor and a little carmelization on the outside. And then we hold the roast full and slice it to order, similar to a prime rib.”
If you notice an emblem embossed on your table while browsing the extensive menu, it’s from the reclamation company that salvaged its wood from an old Chrysler stamping plant in Ohio—according to the menu, a plant where the Jeeps used in World War II were manufactured. Manaport says he’s had guests get emotional by recognizing the history—guests who themselves had worked on the same plant’s floors their entire careers and are now vacationing nearby.
The giant Rock & Brews guitar along Highway 192 may set the stage for a restaurant, but it’s the eclectic menu, carefully chosen decor, energetic atmosphere and varied seating options that hit all notes for a more memorable theme.